RNA-based micelles: A novel platform for paclitaxel loading and delivery

J Control Release. 2018 Apr 28;276:17-29. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2018.02.014. Epub 2018 Feb 14.


RNA can serve as powerful building blocks for bottom-up fabrication of nanostructures for biotechnological and biomedical applications. In addition to current self-assembly strategies utilizing base pairing, motif piling and tertiary interactions, we reported for the first time the formation of RNA based micellar nanoconstruct with a cholesterol molecule conjugated onto one helical end of a branched pRNA three-way junction (3WJ) motif. The resulting amphiphilic RNA micelles consist of a hydrophilic RNA head and a covalently linked hydrophobic lipid tail that can spontaneously assemble in aqueous solution via hydrophobic interaction. Taking advantage of pRNA 3WJ branched structure, the assembled RNA micelles are capable of escorting multiple functional modules. As a proof of concept for delivery for therapeutics, Paclitaxel was loaded into the RNA micelles with significantly improved water solubility. The successful construction of the drug loaded RNA micelles was confirmed and characterized by agarose gel electrophoresis, atomic force microscopy (AFM), dynamic light scattering (DLS), and fluorescence Nile Red encapsulation assay. The estimate critical micelle formation concentration ranges from 39 nM to 78 nM. The Paclitaxel loaded RNA micelles can internalize into cancer cells and inhibit their proliferation. Further studies showed that the Paclitaxel loaded RNA micelles induced cancer cell apoptosis in a Caspase-3 dependent manner but RNA micelles alone exhibited low cytotoxicity. Finally, the Paclitaxel loaded RNA micelles targeted to tumor in vivo without accumulation in healthy tissues and organs. There is also no or very low induction of pro-inflammatory response. Therefore, multivalence, cancer cell permeability, combined with controllable assembly, low or non toxic nature, and tumor targeting are all promising features that make our pRNA micelles a suitable platform for potential drug delivery.

Keywords: Drug loading; RNA micelles; RNA nanotechnology; Self-assembly; Systemic delivery; pRNA three-way junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Drug Liberation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • KB Cells
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Micelles*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage*
  • Paclitaxel / chemistry
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • RNA*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Cytokines
  • Micelles
  • RNA
  • Paclitaxel